Nice and squeezey, citrus flavours

If I was stranded on a desert island and allowed just one ingredient, apart from chilled white wine that gushed out of a tap, I would definitely opt for an endless supply of lemons. Yes, lemons.
 
Along with the salt I would make by evaporating sea water in the sun, I'd have the magical seasoning duo that would instantly enhance the flavour of any fish, meat or vegetable that I managed to catch or find.
 
The lovely lemon is one of the most commonly used condiments in the world, and it's not surprising when you think of how, for so many cultures, it forms the backbone of their national dishes. Not many self-respecting North African tagines are served without a liberal scattering of preserved lemons (see my chickpea tagine recipe, opposite) or imagine how different the classic Greek salad would be without a generous squeeze of the superbly sour citrus fruit to balance the herbaceous oregano and golden olive oil. The Asians would also be lost without the lemon (or lime), for the sour element in their sweet, sour and salty 'holy trinity' of flavours.
 
For many people, the day starts with a slice of lemon in a glass of warm water - which is a great idea, as it helps to flush out toxins, while rehydrating you at the same time. Lemons are, of course, well known for being an excellent source of vitamin C, but they're also a free-radical scavenger and great for the immune system too, not to mention their brilliant anti-inflammatory properties.
 
The lemon's ability to heighten and enhance flavours is genius. A squeeze of lemon juice over some sweet strawberries, sliced melon or even a halved avacado is truly transformative, but it's probably the Italians who have lemons completely nailed. Lemons, mixed with alcohol and sugar, are allowed to sit and infuse, then sipped when very, very cold - this is limoncello at its best.
 

Lemon based Recipes: 

 

Rachel's tip

To get more juice from your lemon, especially if it’s hard, place it on the work surface under the palm of your hand and roll it back and forth a few times, leaning quite heavily on the lemon. Cut it in half, squeeze, et voila, lots of lovely lemon juice!
 

Rachel recommends

The intense flavour of preserved lemons is used in lots of different Moroccan dishes. If I have the time, I love to make a big jar of them. However, they take about six weeks before they're ready to use - not very helpful if you need some for a tagine right now! This is a useful way of preparing them, and only takes an hour or so. Add two tablespoons of salt to 200ml (7fl oz) of water and bring to the boil. Add two lemons that have been quartered and cook, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half and the rind is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. To store, scrape away and discard the pulp. Store the peels in a jar, covered in olive oil, for up to a few months.

Shaneod Jun 08, 2015 News